Using the Clustering Method for a Heterogeneous Reading of Lebanese Youth

Mona Harb, Sami Atallah, Mohamad Diab - 2020

Mona Harb, Sami Atallah and Mohamad Diab authored an article in the most recent Mediterranean Politics journal, laying down their adoption of mixed methods to fully grasp the complex subjectivities of Lebanese youth.

How to better study youth in ways that can capture their complex subjectivities? While qualitative methodologies succeed rather well at unpacking youth’s holistic selfhoods, quantitative tools are often more rigid at apprehending their multifaceted lives. Some tools such as multiple correspondence analysis do allow for a more nuanced and thorough understanding, and are particularly opportune in contexts where the studied group is heterogeneous in terms of social class and sectarian origin – such as the Lebanese case. Building on these attempts at quantitatively measuring youth’s multidimensional attributes, this paper analyzes a survey of Lebanese youth conducted in 2015 within the framework of the Power2Youth (P2Y) study to generate an intricate reading of young people, using the k-means clustering method. We use this technique to generate five youth groups: i) potential migrants, ii) secular youth, iii) school-to-job youth, iv) conservative students, and v) maturing youth. The paper discusses how each cluster relates to politics and religiosity, as well as to views on women’s roles and rights, highlighting the high variability within and across clusters. We conclude with reflections on how the clustering method may be useful to furthering research agendas and quantitative methodologies examining youth’s attitudes to political change in post-colonial contexts.

This article is one of the outputs of the Power2Youth research project.